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October 30, 2013

Art: Through the looking glass

Admittedly, when it comes to art exhibitions with children as their target audience, glass is not the medium that first comes to mind. The “Bookworms” exhibition at Flame Run aims to challenge that precedent and provide the opportunity for children not only to become enthusiastic about glass art and glass art making, but also to learn more about classic children’s literature. Many of the books interpreted in the exhibition are beloved by many generations of children, creating the opportunity for parents and grandparents to connect with their kids over books they might have read as children themselves.

The brainchild of gallery director and self-described “Harry Potter nerd” Tiffany Ackerman, the show, co-sponsored by the Center for Family Literacy, aims to “get kids to read to parents, parents to read to children, and everyone to read together.” Ackerman’s contribution is “The Monster Book of Monsters” from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” The googly glass eyes and lolling tongue on the book creates a kind of interest in the weird and magic potential of the tome and serves as the perfect keystone of the show, promoting the transformative power of literature. Like Ackerman’s piece, the most interesting works take advantage of the unique qualities of glass as a medium — clear glass carrots robbed of their color by vampire bunny “Bunnicula,” Charlotte’s “Some Pig” webbed in delicate glass threads in a barn wood frame.

While “Bookworms” is clearly aimed at older children, works that are familiar to younger children, such as Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree” and Crockett Johnson’s “Harold and the Purple Crayon,” are also featured. This diversity of literature creates an environment where a child surely has familiarity with at least some of the pieces, like “Alice in Wonderland,” for instance, and offers them the opportunity to explain and interpret the objects for the adults they are with.

The exhibition is thoughtfully designed for its intended audience, beginning with the height of the pedestals, which place the artwork at eye level for a shorter audience. On the side of each pedestal is an explanatory panel from the book it was inspired by, but smartly, the expositions read like book jackets, pitching the awesomeness of each book and enticing the reader to seek out the work. The illustrated covers are also featured on the sides of the pedestals, allowing the chance for kids to identify artworks from books that may be above their own reading level but may have been read to them.

Culminating in the thrilling spectacle of watching glass blowers at work, this show’s unique venue offers families the opportunity not only to see the art but also to watch how it gets made. Flame Run will host a reception and glass-blowing demonstration from 6-9 p.m. on Friday.